Manmohan warns against communalising armed forces

Former prime minister said that Hindutva way of life verdict must be overruled

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh delivers the 'A. B. Bardhan Memorial Lecture' in New Delhi, Tuesday. PTI

Invoking his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee to insist that secularism is not an alien concept to India, former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday felt that the "Hindutva is a way of life" judgement should be "overruled".

He also warned against communalising armed forces as he insisted that soldiers be kept away from "politicians' manipulations and intrigues" as well as "any sectarian appeal".

Singh wants the judiciary, the Election Commission and the media to uphold secularist values as he delivered his speech as the chief guest at the 2nd A B Bardhan Memorial Lecture here.

"We should be unambiguously clear that any attempt to dismantle the larger egalitarian project — a secular, progressive, democratic polity. And the onus of preserving the secular robustness of our republic rests on all our constitutional institutions," he said.

Terming the Babri Masjid demolition as a "traumatic event" and "a sad day of our secular republic", he said the Supreme Court had in the Bommai judgement reaffirmed that secularism is the basic structure of Constitution but "unfortunately that satisfaction was short-lived" following Justice J S Verma's Hindutva judgement.

"This verdict had a decisive impact on the ongoing debate among the political parties about the principles and practices of secularism in our republic. The judgement ended up making our political discourse somewhat lopsided and many believe that there can be no doubt that the decision requires to be overruled," Singh said.

He said political disputes and electoral battles are increasingly getting "over-laced with religious overtones, symbols, myths and prejudices" but that the judiciary needs to arrive at its own enlightened view "irrespective of irresponsible and selfish politicians who have no qualms in injecting communal virus" in the body politic.

"The same expectation must also be voiced with regard to our armed forces. Our armed forces are a splendid embodiment of our secular project. Our armed forces have a glorious record of keeping away from the politicians’ manipulations and intrigues. It is vitally important that the armed forces remain uncontaminated from any sectarian appeal," he said.

Singh said no constitutional arrangement can be protected and preserved by the judiciary alone, however vigilant or enlightened the judges may be.

"Ultimately, it comes down to the political leadership, civil society, religious leaders and the intelligentsia to defend the Constitution and its secular commitments," he said.

Singh also reminded that every civilised society is known and defined by the terms it offers to its minorities, especially its religious minorities.

"That was one of the principal issues facing our national leaders when they got down to writing a Constitution for the newly-Independent India," he said. 
 

Full Speech of Manmohan Singh at the 2nd A B Bardhan memorial lecture

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Manmohan warns against communalising armed forces

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